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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  January 10, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PST

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19 good men their lives. may they rest in peace and may their families and marcus luttrell find peace here on earth. find me on twitter @jaketapper. check out for video blogs and extras. that's it for "the lead." i know turn you over to wolf blitzer. he's also here in los angeles situation west coast. >> jake, thanks very much. happening now, breaking news, hundreds of new documents just released in the chris christie traffic jam scandal. the first couple of e-mails wee enough to put his political career at risk. hundreds and thousands of people are being warned to stay out of the water coming out of their taps. did a chemical spill suddenly turn it into poison? and the unemployment rate falls to a five-year low. but where are the jobs? why the new numbers are so
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alarming. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." the first couple of e-mails rocked chris christie's world are now breaking news. lawmakers releasing more than 2,000 pages of documents shedding new light on the apparent political vendetta that turned a new jersey town into gridlock. chris christie said that he was blind-sided by the scandal. he now faces a lawsuit and an uncertain political future but is there more? cnn has been reviewing the documents and we get the latest now from our crime and justice correspondent, joe johns. what have you found out, joe? >> wolf, the paper trail so far shows that at least one other member of governor chris christie's senior staff, who has not been named publicly, was forwarded an e-mail, detailing the extent of the problem of the george washington bridge. however, we don't know whether
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that staffer actually read the document a he there's no indication that she was involved in any alleged political retribution. cuomo appointee was expressing outraged, calling it ill-advised and abusive. the nearly 2,000 documents released within the last few hours come as the committee continues to hone in on why traffic was snarled back in september. today we learned that the chief of staff whom he fired on thursday may be the next person subpoenaed to testify in the widening probe. sources tell cnn lawmakers want to question bridget kelly about her involvement in closing two lanes of traffic onto the george washington bridge. kelly's e-mail, time for some traffic problems in ft. lee, was made public this week. >> on the advice of counsel, i
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assert my right to remain silent. the pair are accused of the traf jam and christie says he was unaware of the traffic jam. >> i had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover. >> they actually measured how big of a mess this was. 2800 hours were lost in that vehicle jam. there was outrage and chaos that
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occurred in the days after and the police chief saying it was a monumental failure. no indications if these documentses that we've seen so far that governor christie played a role. wolf? >> but you and our team, pro us doers, researchers on this are still going through these 2,000 pages. by no means have you completed that task? >> no. it's a lot of reading and it's a lot of letters to go through and we're trying to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. >> how dangerous are these new documents for the governor chris christie? let's bring in jake tapper along with senior analyst jeffrey toobin. jake, it appears that christie's senior aide was looped in on the e-mail exchange between these port authority officials about the lane closures. it's unclear if the aide read the e-mail. could this just be the beginning
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of more to come? >> well, there is still so much that we don't know about why this happened, whether this traffic study was borne from political vendetta, who was responsible, who knew about it. bridget kelly, we haven't heard from her. david wildstein, we haven't heard from him besides his right to not incriminate himself. as these documents indicate, there's much, much more that we don't know. a lot of these documents pose more questions than they answer. >> and jeffrey, let's talk a little bit about that because potentially a lot could still happen to governor christie as far as the legal investigation now under way. >> and i think it's becoming
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increasingly real. miss kelly, bridget kelly, who is the person who sent the infamous time to stop the traffic in ft. lee almost certainly she's going to take the fifth, too. so the question is, is paul fishman, the u.s. attorney, some state prosecutor going to give him and her immunity so that they have to tell their story? because until they do, it sounds like we are not going to have anything like a full story on what happened here. >> well, you used to be assistant u.s. attorney. what would it take for the current u.s. attorney in new jersey to give either or both of them immunity from prosecution. what would it take? they have to have some smoking gun involving higher ups? is that right? >> not necessarily. they wouldn't have to have a smoking gun. paul fishman has to have a good
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faith belief that the testimony of these two people or anyone else would lead and be productive. he didnhas to have a good-faith belief that a crime was committed and these would be useful witnesses. the question is, will fishman decide that there is a good-faith basis to give community to these people? because unless and until he does, i don't think we're going to learn we are anywhere near the full story. >> jake, both of these e-mails that we have learned about today show local officials, even some of governor chris christie's staff, that they understood the full gravity of the problems that they were causing. the governor says he wasn't informed about any of this. but what does it say about how his administration is run? >> well, the governor, to be
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precise, has said that he wasn't aware that there was -- there were plans to do this as a vendetta. not that he wasn't aware that there was a traffic study, not that he wasn't aware that there were traffic problems, not that he wasn't aware that there was damage control and spin control after it. i don't know what you can say about his management style based on this episode other than if he did not know the top aides were doing this, why do they feel that it was acceptable? that's a question that they need to answer and that, frankly, governor christie said he was doing, soul searching about at his press conference. that's one of the democrats in the state assembly of new jersey holding hearings on this who has been subpoenaing documents. when they subpoenaed wildstein's documents, he returned a bunch of documents, including with a lot of redactions but one of
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those documents was to david sampson who is the christie appointed chair of the port authority and what he says is the fact that david wildstein provided this document which was before the meeting and before the order to have this traffic study create traffic problems indicates that wildstein thinks that it's relevant. so the question is, what is the relevance governor christy said that sampson assured him that he has no role in this as a political vendetta. there are a lot of questions about these documents. >> and big picture, jeffrey, one of the reasons that we're so interested in this whole investigation and the scandal has erupted and chris christie is leading presidential candidate. what does this do to that
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prospect of there's a lot of people that liked the way he handled it but from your perspective, what does it do? >> this is a big problem. it's better for him to be ignorant than for him to be explicit. it's certainly not great for him to be ignorant of his top aides engaging in this political vendetta. this story is still unfolding. there are a lot of people, including law enforcement people who are continuing to investigates and we're going to know a lot more in a week and to evaluate christie's political problems, it's very premature. he's got them. how big, we're going to learn more every day. >> jake, i want you to add something, jake. but i just want to give the notion that some people think he
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really helped themselves yesterday. he came across as sincere, apologized, said it would never happen again. a lot of folks liked the way he dealt with this. >> well, that's what i want d to say, is that governor christie has never really been popular among conservative rank and file that you hear -- that you hear on talk radio or read on twitter, you read their blogs, et cetera, because he's considered something of a moderate, especially after his literal before the election but i have to say that this controversy and scandal and the media's coverage and see, a, the media is out to get him. b, i'm not saying any of these are true, by the way. this is how it's perceived. a, the media is out to get them. the media is covering the story
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with an aggressiveness that we have not shown for other scandals having to do with president obama. and, c, there is accountability. there are people being fired unlike in some democratic scandal. so i'm not saying this is good for governor chris christie. perhaps the enemy is my friend or something like that. >> you want to weigh in, jeffrey, on that? >> jake just beat me to it. the enemy is my friend. i think what is going on here is there a lot of working of the refs going on. people -- "the wall street journal" editorial page, they are saying they are not going after -- they are going after christie in a way that they didn't go after obama. n nonsense. we go after scandals as far as we can take them. we only need monica lewinsky to
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remember the biggest scandal in modern day history. i think this is obviously an important story. there's a lot more we have to learn about it and to pursue it in good faith is absolutely the right thing to do. >> jeffrey and jake, thanks very, very much. we have a lot more on this story. other news, christie certainly is in crisis mode. more on the political fallout. did the embattled new jersey governor put himself in this mess and how will he get out of 2. and they can't drink it or cook with it. thousands warned to stay away from their water. the water company has scheduled a news conference in 20 minutes to give us an update. when i first started shopping for a hybrid... i didn't even look at anything else. i just assumed you went and bought a prius. so this time around we were able to do some research and we ended up getting a ford... which we love. it's been a wonderful switch. it has everything that you could want in a car. it's the most fun to drive... because it's the most hi tech inside...
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for 300,000 west virginians, the water in their homes is good for one thing only. flushing. residents have run for bottled water. elizabeth cohen is in charleston, west virginia, with the very latest. this is truly shocking what is going on for these 300,000 people in west virginia. elizabeth, update us on what we know. >> reporter: well, wolf, i want to tell you that we just learned that the west virginia department of environmental protection just issued a cease order to freedom industries, which is the place that leaked this chemical in the first place. they told freedom industries to stop their operations. now, this is really crucial because what we've been hearing, this chemical has continued to leak and so they are telling them, hey, you've got to stop everything while what we know right now is that the officials
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at the water department and elsewhere are trying to get this chemical out of the water so that people can start dinking the water again. >> what is this freedom industries? what do they do? >> reporter: they are involved in the coal industry because this chemical is used to clean coal. that's the extent of what we know. it's used to clean coal. it says right there on the chemical information that it is hazardous if swallowed and can be an irritant to the eyes and to the skin. this is an important point, wolf. all of those things are true if you are exposed to the chemical at full force. what we don't know is how harmful it is if you are exposed to it when it's more diluted because, of course, it would be more diluted in the water system. it's diluted in the water. >> do they have any idea how long it will take before folks start drinking tap water or using tap water, take a shower
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with regular water? do they have any idea how long this disaster is going to continue? >> reporter: wolf, i asked the president of the water company about that just about an hour ago. he said, look, we're hoping that it is days and not weeks. we're hoping days. we are thinking it will not be weeks. he did say days, plural. there's not a quick fix here. >> are a lot of folks just getting out of west virginia, those areas? you can't take a bath, you can't take a shower, you can't drink water or use the water to cook anything. are folks getting out of town? >> you know, we are hearing that people are going to the area just beyond the area that is affected. the whole state is not affected, just one area. we're hearing that the restaurants in the other water district that there are waits for hours and hours to eat at those restaurants because they are so close to this area. yes, it does seem that people are leaving the area in an attempt to get a good meal or
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possibly to get a good shower. >> yeah. we all like bottled water but it can get pretty expensive. i know there is going to be a news conference coming up in ten minutes or so where they are providing new information. you'll monitor it and we'll monitor it and get the latest information to our viewers. this is a shocking story out of with he is west virginia right now. elizabeth cohen, thank you very much. unemployment falls to a new low but where are the jobs? and new concerns that al qaeda may be using syria as a recruiting base for american extremists. we have disturbing details. that's coming up. stay with us. you're in "the situation room." welcome back. how is everything? there's nothing like being your own boss! and my customers are really liking your flat rate shipping. fedex one rate. really makes my life easier. maybe a promotion is in order.
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two striking numbers today on the u.s. economy. the unemployment rate fell to 6.7%. that's the lowest in five years but that drop isn't necessarily a good thing. only 74,000 jobs were added last month. also the lowest in years by far, way below expectations. our senior white house correspondent brianna keilar has been monitoring these numbers for us. overall, i think most economists were disappointed, weren't they? >> yes, they were. 74,000 jobs added in december. the economy has to add a lot more than that to keep pace with population and this is the worst since january of 2011. white house officials, though, are trying to assuage concerns by pointing to the over job numbers for december. >> what it does represent is 46
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consecutive months of private sector job creation. 8.2 million jobs. that reinforces that we need to continue to have job growth, economic security, economic mobility as our top priority and those priorities are the preside president's priorities and he wants to advance an agenda that delivers on those priorities. >> the unemployment rate, as you mentioned, wolf, went from 7% to 6.8%. that's the first time it's been below 7% since the president was elected president more than five years ago but it's an unwelcome dip because it's due in part to many people simply giving up looking for work and those folks, wolf, are not reflected in this statistic so the actual unemployment number would be higher. can these job numbers help
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the white house, help the president get the extension of the long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million unemployeed americans? >> they could. four in ten are long-term unemployed, longer than six months. but these jobs numbers are not game changing when it comes to convincing congress about middle ground. they certainly make the president's case for extending these long-term unemployment numbers more than if the numbers today had been good. >> just to put it into some sort of perspective, and i want to give some speperspective, they revise the numbers for november. originally they said 203,000 jobs were created. that revised that up to 241,000. so that's good. the 241,000 compared to only 74,000 in december, that's a pretty steep decline. as you point out, to really get things going, you need a lot more job creation than that. brianna, thanks very much. brianna has more on this story
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later in "the situation room." le. the deal to extends long-term unemployment benefits for more than a million americans has hit another snag. dana bash is joining us. >> there are several issues. i want to underscore a static. 37.7% americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. whether they can extend the benefits remains to be seen. this sure didn't sound like senators closing in on a deal. >> let's sit down and talk. we're adults. >> reporter: talk about fiddling while rome burns. >> reporter: just when there seemed to be hope for extending emergency unemployment benefits, the senate floor evolved into a bitter place. >> we have destruction that has taken place in this body for
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five years. it's time we get back to legislating the way that we used to. >> no. >> reporter: calling someone my friend in the senate usually means the total opposite. >> the answer to your question is no. >> reporter: these six republicans crossed party lines and voted with democrats to start debate on extending emergency benefits for americans unemployed longer than 26 weeks. but those gop senators refused to vote for a passage unless the cost of that extra government help is offset with budget cuts elsewhere. harry reid cut a deal with one of those republicans, dean heller, to extend limited benefits through november but the other gop senators didn't like the deal and felt shut out of the process. >> i would say, first of all, i voted in good faith. one of six republicans to debate this bill, to solve this problem
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and i can't get a vote. >> these republicans say they wouldn't offer amendments. >> i don't even have the ability to offer an amendment that my constituents think is a -- they sent me here to do. they didn't send me here to be told to be sit down and forget it. >> now reid is actually reversing himself saying today that he will allow republicans to offer a limited number of amendments but even if that satisfies republicans, there is still no agreement on the fundamental agreement of extending unemployment benefits and how that will be paid for. cnn is told that tempers are cooling right now. discussions will be all weekend long in the hopes of finding a deal by monday. wolf, they they do something that gets bipartisan support, the question is whether the house speaker, who has said he won't take this up at all, will be forced to reconsider. wolf? >> even if that passes the senate, and it may be up in the air right now, even if it were
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to pass the senate it would go to the house and assuming they don't make the concessions that republicans want would be dead. that's the only thing i can conclude, right? is. >> right. one of the key things that john boehner, the house speaker has said, is that they want it to be paid for. if there is a deal that can be worked out over the weekend where the benefits would be paid for offset in other places in the budget and you have enough republicans in the senate who support that and some sort of a bipartisan vote. if that p hhappens, it might be hard for john boehner to say no. >> yeah. the question is, how do you pay for it, assuming the democrats will pay for it -- >> which they say they will now. >> yeah. where the money will come from as opposed to a lot of republicans. that's the uncertainty. that's the bottom line. a lot at stake here. dana, thank you. we're standing by for a live
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news conference on the water contamination affecting 300,000 people. really unbelievable what is going on. plus, he may have represented, at least a lot of people believe, the white house for the 2016 so why are some fellow republicans actually happy about chris christie's political troubles? and the federal government says it will recognize those same-sex marriages performed in utah on 1,000 marriages over the past few weeks but the state of utah won't accept them. what happens to those couples while the courts try to figure out the legality of their unions?
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>> until a couple of days ago, chris christie led the lead for 2016 presidential run. brian todd has been looking at this part of the story. brian, what's going on? >> wolf, for several reasons, the party's conservative base has squared off over chris christie for the last few years. now when he could use broad gop support, he doesn't seem to have it. facing his biggest crisis, chris christie may not want to look towards fellow conservatives for a political lifeline because it appears some would rather see him drown. look at glenn beck on his talk show. >> conservatives need to run from chris christie. run from chris christie. this, again, is the
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quintessential example of why i'm against him. >> reporter: or rush limbaugh on his radio show. >> the point of the story is that he will, christie, it's payback. if you don't give him what he wants, he will pay you back. >> there are a lot of conservatives who have never liked chris christie. for them, this is sort of vindication. >> reporter: vindication, they say, for the antagonism on issues that they hold dear. for example, he's been more favorable towards gun control and immigration reform than most republicans. and he's blasted the tea party for one of its core beliefs. >> this strain of libertarianism going through both parties right now and making big headlines i think is a very dangerous thought. >> reporter: that comment was the political equivalent of picking a fight with potential republican rival senator rand paul who made this aside when asked about the christie bridge scandal. >> i have been in traffic before and i know how angry i am when i'm in traffic and i always
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wonder, who did this to me. >> reporter: the willingness to cut deals with republicans makes them long suspicious that he will be sold out in washington. some belief the speech of the 2012 republican convention was intentionally more about him than mitt romney. >> the greatest lesson that mom ever taught me, though, was this one. she told me there will be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. >> reporter: and many republicans still haven't forgiven christie for his buddy flick-style appearances with president obama after superstorm sandy, just hours before election day. >> among republican operatives, people who work for campaigns and for politicians, there has been a sort of undercurrent of complaint that christie's team is tough to work with, that he's a premadonna. >> reporter: we couldn't get christie's office to respond to that. just who were the republicans who have defended him this week?
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rudy giuliani is one and nikki haley who said christie, in the wake of the scandal, has shown the kind of leadership that has earned him huge levels of trust in new jersey but haley is someone that christie could help this year. she's got a tough re-election fight coming. wolf, she could sure use his help this year. >> the politics of the republican party always fascinating, brian. thank you very much. i want to go to west virginia right now. freedom industries, the company who supposedly had this poisonous chemical thrown into the water system, they are now speaking out. 300,000 people in west virginia can't use water. listen to this. >> we worked through the night last night to remove all of the people from our site. the people is no longer here. it's sitting at another remote location that we have. we've drained the storage site that had the problem and we have
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removed all of the material that is available and could be vacuumed out of the ground. we have brought in a large number of circumstance cut trucks which are like vacuum cleaner trucks that removed the material and took the material to another site for storage and ultimate cleanup. we have worked with the emergency services all day yesterday and all day today. our intent is to be totally -- okay. okay. our intent is to be absolutely transparent and we'll tell you what we know and as much as we know to date is that we've had this release. unfortunately, it appears that some of the material did get into the river and potentially or has impacted the water supply in charleston. we have mitigating the risk, we believe, in terms of further material leaving this facility
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and our mission now is to clean up. thank you very much. our mission now is to move to the next phase of remediation, which would be to take the dirt, which is in the storage area, and take that off site for the appropriate disposal. we have worked with coast guards, we have booms that were placed on the river in case of a potential for the material to move which will trap the material and trap the material from leaving the facility. we don't believe a great amount has left the facility and at this time we cannot give you a number in terms of volume. we simply do not know yet. as more information becomes available, we will make it available to you. >> how much was in the tank?
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>> the tank is a 35,000 gallons storage tank. >> even if the questions come from over here, we need you to look at all of the cameras. >> okay. it's a 35,000 gallons storage tank. there is no more of the material on site other than the material that went from the storage tank into the dike and some dirt that is around the surrounding area. >> did you do that before or after the deq order? >> this has been an ongoing -- no, this has been an ongoing process. we started this yesterday. d.e.p. has been here and we've been working hand in hand with d.e.p. since the beginning of this event. >> could maximum of 35,000 gallons? >> no. >> what is the maximum?
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>> it's a 35,000 gallons storage tank. we don't know what the volume is. we will do a math balance on what we collected. we know what was in the tank when we started and we'll be able to tell you basically what material was either taken with dirt or went out of the facility. we don't have that data yet. that's a good question. we're working on that right now and we hope to have some answers ohh on that question. it's been an extremely long day. i'm having a hard time talking at the moment. i would appreciate it if we could wrap this up. >> we actually have a lot of questions. it's been a long day for a lot of people who don't have water. so can you give us an exact timeline as to how this all happened, the d.e.p. was saying as early as 8:15 yesterday they were getting reports and that you all did not call it in until
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12:00 noon. so what's the timeline in all of this? >> we were aware of the leaking storage tank around 10:30. we load tank trucks of this material on a regular basis and occasionally we've had reports of an odor previously. we were first aware of it at 10:30 yesterday. >> we've also received reports that it was as early as wednesday, possibly tuesday people were starting to smell this in the area. >> we have no information on that. >> are there no systems in place to alert you of a leak at your facility other than a smell? >> at this moment in time, i think that's all we have time for. so thanks for coming. >> we have more questions. hey, hey, hey, we're not done. >> we are done. >> we are not done. >> well, there is -- does anyone else have any questions? >> hold on a second. >> how was the material able to
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get out of the storage tank at all? >> it's a steel storage tank. we don't know the answer to that. that's what we are trying to determine. there are a number of different hypothesis. it's been extremely cold. it's been that maybe the change in the temperature has something to do with it. we don't know. until we can get the information on the tank, we won't know that. >> how is the tank looked at to make sure they are up to par? >> they are looked at on a regular basis. we have people with the tanks every day. literally, we load the tanks with this material every day. >> is there any danger to the plumbing? >> not that we're aware of. there's a posted ban on consumption of water. we're not in the business of producing drinking water. >> but the chemical itself, is
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it dangerous to the public? >> the chemical itself as a very, very low toxicity. so if you look at the technical data available on the product, it has no affect on aquatic life. so there's no danger to fish in the river. as a chemical, the answer to that question we would have to say would be no. >> do you know, because it seems like there's a failure on two levels. a failure at the tanks and a failure at the retainment wall. how often is that wall looked at and tell us what procedures are in place at the plant, you know, to keep the -- are there any alarms, alerts, anything like that? >> we run this facility -- this facility operates around the clock at this time of year. we always have employees on site. we do a regular walk-through of the facility and the trucks that we dispatch from here are
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involved at the storage tank. >> at what point did you stop doing regular business? >> we've got to get back. >> when did you stop doing regular business? >> i can tell you that all of our efforts have been focused since 10:30 yesterday morning on the remediation of this problem. >> minimum timeline for -- >> we will get back to you with an answer on that. we're working on one right now. we're working on that right now, sir. >> okay. >> all right. that's gary sutherland. he's the president of freedom industries. there was a leak. 300,000 people are now directly affected in the charleston, west virginia area. they can't drink water, take a bath, use that water to cook at
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least for the time being. and it's obviously a very, very serious situation. you heard the president under enormous stress right there but as one of the reporters pointed out, a lot of people are under more stress because they don't have access to water. maybe they have some bottled water you saw him drinking bottled water but they don't have access to tap water at least for now. elizabeth cohen is there in charleston, west virginia. this is a painful story for so many people because we just take water for granted but here in west virginia, because of this chemical leak at this plant, freedom industries, these folks can't even take a shower or take a bath. >> reporter: i know. it really is a terrible situation and you think of all of the things that you use water for and, of course, you think about how you use it in your own house. think about how a hospital uses water for so many things and that's why hospitals here, millions of them have had to shut down their elective surgeries. unless it's an emergency, you're not coming here.
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you can imagine how dangerous that can be for people who were really expecting to have these elective surgeries. i mean, it's a terrible, terrible situation. >> and we're going to be speaking shortly, elizabeth, with the governor of west virginia, earl tomlin. we've got a lot of questions for him. the governor is going to join us and elizabeth will join us as well. what can the federal government do to help these 300,000 people in west virginia? we'll have much more on this and all of the day's other news when we come back.
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a new travel alert has just
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been issued by the state department warning all americans who plan to attend next month's winter olympic games in sochi, russia, to remain attentive, quote, remain attentive at all ti times. this after two deadly terror bombings occurred. barbara starr has the upset. what's going on? >> reporter: of course, the russianses are in charge of security but the u.s. taking no chances already moving things into place. the navy expects to put a navy warship in the black sea off of sochi just in case it's needed. and now we have learned that the fbi director has already moved law enforcement and his intelligence personnel into place saying that he's got people already on the ground in moscow and in sochi, intelligence, counterterrorism specialists on stand-by ready to help the russians if they ask for help and advice. director james comi saying i think it's particularly
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challenging in sochi because of its proximity to areas of unrest and sources of terrorist threat. what he's talking about is the terrorist group known as ik in the region. they have called for attacks against the olympics. they are virulent against any russian control over their region, so this is the big worry. it's a terrorist group, wolf, with many cells, very dispersed, different leaders, different commanders and that's what's causing so much concern. how do you keep track of them all? everyone certainly hopes for a peaceful games. >> so the state department is telling americans to remain attentive if they go to the winter olympic games in sochi, but they're not saying don't go. they're just saying if you go, just be careful. >> that is what the state department is saying. you know, it's the kind of travel advice they give americans around the world these
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days. >> barbara, thanks very much. barbara starr at the pentagon. coming up, not even boiling the water in west virginia will make it safe. when will clean water be restored to 300,000 people? i'll ask the governor of west virginia. he's standing by live right here in "the situation room." so ally bank really has no hidden fees on savings accounts? that's right, no hidden fees. it's just that i'm worried about, you know, "hidden things." ok, why's that? well uhhh... surprise!!! um... well, it's true. at ally there are no hidden fees. not one. that's nice. no hidden fees, no worries. ally bank. your money needs an ally.
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to syria now and fears al qaeda is using the country as a base to recruit extremists, some of them americans in plots against western countries including the united states. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto is joining us with new information. >> wolf u.s. authorities have known for some time that troops fighting in syria have a desire
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to plot terror attacks abroad including the u.s. now the u.s. is watching closely for signs that those ambitions are morphing into operational planning. i'm also told that these groups have a desire to train american veterans of the syrian fighting and there are dozens of them to carry out attacks here on the homeland. he allegedly fought in syria for al qaeda-tied militants. bragged on the internet about shooting down a syrian aircraft. and he is an american. eric kayun, a former u.s. soldier, is one of 50 americans who joined the insurgency in syria. now u.s. authorities are gravely concerned they're being recited to carry out terror when they return home. >> one of you our greatest concerns is al qaeda operatives in syria training westerners including americans that have legitimate travel documents that
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can travel back to europe and the united states and hit western targets. right now the fight's in syria, but tomorrow they want to bring the fight back to the united states. >> reporter: syria, two years into a brutal civil war pitting radical islamist groups and more moderate rebels against the regime of bashar al assad has become a new base for recruiting, training and launching terrorism against the west, including the u.s. a u.s. official tells cnn foreign fighters now number in the thousands and most of them gravitate toward the more radical extremist groups. which have operational ties with core al qaeda. the official says the u.s. is now watching closely for signs their ambitions, including those of americans, could be morphing into operational planning. >> they're well trained, they're radicalized and they have the ability and the intent to strike the u.s. homeland. >> reporter: american fighters have bragged about their violent exploits in syria. >> bashar al assad, your days
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are numbered. you're going to die no matter what. where you go, we will find you and kill you. >> reporter: the fear now that others may some day brag about terrorism at home. >> that's it for now. >> there are several ways u.s. authorities are tracking these americans. their travel documents, of course, but human intelligence sources on the ground in syria signals intelligence, phones and e-mails and via social media, these fighters like to brag about their experience on the ground there, then post it on facebook, twitter and that's one way that we're able to keep track of them. >> jim sciutto, thanks very much. happening now, unemployment shocker. a new jobs report catches everyone off guard. why do numbers that look good on the surface possibly mean bad news for the economy? water disaster. a chemical spill prompts an emergency warning to hundreds of thousands of people, don't turn on the tap. what sparked this toxic
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nightmare? scandal revelations. hundreds of pages of just released documents are shedding new light on the traffic controversy battering the new jersey governor chris christie. what do they reveal about lane closures on the world's busiest bridge? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following two breaking stories this hour, contaminated water affecting hundreds of thousands of people in west virginia. we just heard from the company believed to be responsible in a news conference. coming up i'll speak with the governor of west virginia. he's standing by live. and do a live interview in a few minutes, get the latest on that important story. hundreds of thousands of people without water right now in west virginia. the other major story we're following, a major document dump in the scandal involving the new jersey governor chris christie. our joe johns is combing through those documents.
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he's joining us now with the very latest information. joe, what can you tell us? >> wolf, this is just a snapshot of what was going on in the bridge and around it. ft. lee, new jersey, mayor mark sokolich charged that port authority of new york and new jersey police were telling residents of his community that he, the mayor, was responsible for the lane closures on george washington bridge that snarled traffic for several days in december. he wrote many members of the public have indicated to me that the port authority police officers are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that i as the mayor vently made. that was in a scathing september 12th letter to bill barone, the port authority deputy director appointed by chris christie. quote, thisizati decision has wd havoc on the morning rush hour,
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the mayor wrote, this has impacted negatively public safety in ft. lee. he ends by saying the basis, reason or genesis of the decision is no consequence to him, however, he said its profound and adverse impact on the community is of paramount importance to him. just one more idea of the dynamics that were going on on the ground. as you know, wolf, this has been a political story for a while and all of it, apparently, started with somebody's thought, at least we've been told allegedly, that they would try to pay back the mayor for not endorsing chris christie in the election. >> as you know, the governor did meet with and apologize to the mayor mark sokolich on thursday after delivering what, that two-hour news conference. any more fallout we're getting now? any reaction from the mayor specifically to this latest -- these latest documents that have come up specifically referring
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to him, trying to blame him for all this? >> right. no reaction so far. reaching out to a number of people trying to get reactions. again, when you look at these documents, i think the essential takeaway is that we're getting an overlay of information. it's creating a fuller picture of what went on. and we're learning the names, for example, of other individuals who may have been notified about the problem, but so far no smoking gun, nothing that points directly at chris christie as having any more involvement than he said he did. and he says he didn't know anything about it. >> joe johns reporting for us. thanks very much. let's dig a little deeper right now. joining up the washington correspondent for "the new yorker" magazine and also jeffrey toobin, our legal analyst. what do you make of this latest information we're getting, no direct smoking gun implicating the governor, governor christie
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himself, but it looks likepoten involved. >> all the documents, the one i've seen, just suggest the nature of chaos and the degree of anger that was caused by the closure of these lanes. what remains mysterious and is not answered by the documents, at least the oneses th s that i seen, is who ordered this change and why. we saw the so-called smoking gun e-mails last -- yesterday, which talked about why -- where miss kelly, the deputy chief of staff basically said this was a political vendetta. but you know, one of the things you learn as a prosecutor is documents can only tell you so much, and you need witnesses. you need live human beings to explain what they meant and so far we haven't had any of that. we've had one person, david wildstein, take the fifth and
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miss kelly has not yet been called but i think the odds are she'll take the fifth, too. >> i would suspect that. go ahead, ryan. >> one thing that joe johns' report, i haven't seen this document he just reported on, but i find it fascinating. this is first time that there's been any explanation of how this vendetta was actually retaliation against the local mayor, right? up though this point people are scratching their heads saying big deal you shut down the lane in this town, how will that actually damage the mayor? what jaw jones is reporting in these documents the local officials were blaming it on the mayor rather than the port authority of new york and new jersey, which was actual responsible for it. if that was the scheme from the beginning, it seems to be more machiavellian than we realized before, to shut down the traffic, then erroneously blame it on the mayor. >> that was so disturbing and it would explain -- because the notion of -- and jeffrey, i want you to weigh in on this.
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the notion of a democratic mayor of ft. lee, new jersey, endorsing the republican candidate for re-election, why should anyone really expect a democrat to do that? but it looks now that if, in fact, they were seeking a way to punish him and turn the blame, get all these tens of thousands of people, residents in his community, angry at him for shutting down these lanes, that is pretty awful. >> well, it is awful, but again, it's so puzzling. because i thought the most persuasive part of chris christie's news conference was when he said, look, i didn't even know who this guy was. i didn't solicit his endorsement. i don't think i met him. turns the out they had probably shaken hands at some point. but why this relatively insignificant political figure in new jersey, why would they, you know, do this crazy vendetta damaging him and ultimately it turns the out damaging themselves when he wasn't even that important. >> sure does seem like overkill for someone that's not that significant, doesn't it?
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>> it does. and that's why you need individuals to explain what was done and why. the paper can only tell you so much. >> yeah, i totally agree. go ahead, make the final point, ryan. >> that's also the big weakness with christie's press conference this week is at the end of the day he didn't promise any public accounting of all this. he promised he would personally interview his staff and report back if he found anything worth reporting. look, we all know that the president of the united states says that or some other political figure who is involved in a scandal, that doesn't really cut it. you have to have an independent investigation for it to be credible. i think there's going to be a lot of pressure on him to do that down the road or t a least cooperate with the legislature in looking into this. >> ryan, jeffrey toobin, thank you. chris christie is not only facing a huge political crisis, he's also facing a lawsuit. the class-action suit targets
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the governor and three fired appointees arguing that the traffic jams cost lost wages. the woman who filed the suit. what's your main argument? what damages, what claims do you have? >> you're acting like it's insignificant. i'd like to say that what happened here caused severe and significant damages to a lot of people. tens of thousands of people. this isn't a case where we're talking about one person's hour and a half lost wages of $60. this is a case where tens of thousands of people were caused to sit in a traffic jam that wasn't like, okay, there's an accident on the cross bronx and we're going to move very slowly across the bridge. this the situation. they closed all the access lanes from ft. lee to the george washington bridge except for one. and everybody in that entire
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town and anything leading up to it were trying to get to that one lane. cars were fighting with each other, getting within a millimeter of each other. people were missing airline flights. people were late for work. their bosses were getting angry at them. people were yelling at each other. people were having panic attacks. we're not talking about just my six plaintiffs. we're talking about a potential class of tens of thousands. the damage that's sustained by them is significant. what's worse is that it was exactly the damage that the christie administration and the port authority were looking to have them sustain when they implemented this politically motivated plan. >> i'm not suggesting, rosemarie, that this was insignificant by any means. we've spent a lot of time covering this story because it was so significant and such a setback to tens of thousands. as you correctly point out, people in ft. lee, new jersey, and other communities as well. the only question i wanted to know is damages, what kind of
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damages, financial damages, what kind of compensation are you looking for for these people? >> very well, you know, time is money. there were people who lost hours from work, they lost wages, there were people who missed planes, missed vacations. there were people who missed school, were late for school. the entire area was disrupted along with a lot of businesses in new york city because employees couldn't get there. businesses in ft. lee were impacted because customers couldn't get there. so the damages that we're looking for are the actual damages sustained by these people. >> we do expect the state of new jersey to compensate these people? where is the money, in other words, going to come from in this lawsuit if you succeed? >> you're first person to ask me that question today. that's a great question. because we're alleging that the actions of these people in the administration were deliberate. i can't imagine that the state
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of new jersey is going to pay for any intentional acts. the government is, of course, immune from any negligence. so you have title 59 immunities there, but they're not immune from intentional acts. >> so you would expect money from the state of new jersey if you succeed in this class action lawsuit, to compensate these people who lost out whether on jobs, lost on vacations, had their lives disrupted in pretty severe ways. do you think the governor -- tell me what you think about this governor. do you believe the governor, chris christie when he says he knew nothing about any of this? >> you know, i would love to believe the governor. you want to believe the governor. it's hard to believe that something that was on the front page of the newspaper for days wasn't in his radar. it's also the way you were talking earlier in the show. ft. lee is a big city in new jersey.
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it's not a tiny little town. it's hard to believe that he didn't know who mayor sokolich is, regardless of the fact that he's the democratic mayor, regardless of any of that, it's a big city. it's one of the connections to new york city. it's one of the bigger ones. i don't know if i believe him. >> all right, rosemarie arnold, you've got a class-action lawsuit. we'll see what happens down the road. we appreciate you joining us in "the situation room." >> thank you for having me. >> still ahead, hundreds of thousands of people now affected by contaminated water in west virginia. i'll speak live with the governor of west virginia. lots of questions we have. how could this happen? the united states of america? 300,000 people can't drink the water, they can't take a bath, they can't even use the water to prepare food. what is going on?
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wind gusts, 235 miles per hour. >> in 2013 one of the biggest typhoons in recorded history struck the philippines killing thousands and displacing millions. that tragedy captured much of the world's attention including nba superstar pau gasol. >> the damage that the typhoon caused is huge, and it's going to take a lot of time to rebuild. so i thought that i had to do something. and utilize my position to attract others and also create awareness. >> shortly after the typhoon hit gasol took to the court pledging $1,000 for every point he made. turns the out it was a great scoring night. he wracked up 24 points making it a $24,000 donation to unicef's efforts in the philippines. it's not first time he's teamed up with unicef. in fact, he's been an ambassador for the organization for over a
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the government's newest unemployment report had economists doing a double take. their projections for job growth in december were way off the mark. it turned out to be the weakest month in almost three years. take a look at this. experts predicted 193,000 new jobs would be created last month. thanks in part to extra retail hiring for the holidays. but the labor department counts only 74,000 new jobs in december. and while the unemployment rate fell from 7% to 6.7%, that's largely due to frustrated job seekers actually dropping out of the workforce altogether. hundreds of thousands of them. let's go to senior white house correspondent brianna keilar who is taking a closer look. what's the reaction over at the white house to this rather dismal report? >> wolf, white house officials aren't just looking at this one month. they're urging people to look at the overall trajectory of job
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growth but they're also using these latest numbers to make the case for why congress should extend long-term unemployment benefits. it's the number the white house wanted but not the way they wanted it. the nation's unemployment rate dropping below 7% for first time since president obama was elected more than five years ago. but economists say the dip is due in part to more americans giving up looking for work. today's jobs report was the worst in nearly three years. just 74,000 jobs created. >> now we're back to this really frustrating situation where the economy does seem to be picking up some momentum but it's not leading to a lot of job creation. >> reporter: that, some say, doesn't help the white house argument that the economy is recovering slowly but steadily. though it does help the administration's push to extend long-term unemployment benefits. >> there's no question that the biggest short-term economic challenge we face in our country is the long-term unemployed.
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and we're making progress that long-term unemployment rate is coming down, but it's still higher than any point it was ever recorded prior to the great recession, and that's exactly why the president's fighting so hard to extend those unemployment insurance benefits. >> reporter: those benefits expired at the beginning of the month. a deal in congress to keep checks coming appeared imminent this week until negotiations devolved into partisan bickering leaving people who had been unemployed six months or more without benefits. >> we have more work to do, and, you know, we need to get that unemployment insurance to those families who need it. >> reporter: and wolf, there does appear to be some progress on the front when you're talking about congress. senate majority leader harry reid now saying that he'll entertain changes from republicans to this plan to
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extend unemployment benefits and six republicans who joined democrats in voting to begin debate, as my colleague dana bash is reporting, they're now involved in negotiations hoping to maybe strike a deal by monday to move forward on this. but as you know, wolf, even if the senate votes on this and passes it, the future of extending long-term unemployment benefits is still uncertain in the republican-controlled house. >> it certain will is. all right, brianna, don't go away. i want you to be part of this next covers. we have an excellent panel of experts, austan goolsbee, the former chief economist on the economic recovery board, top adviser to president obama, currently professor at the university of chicago boothe school of business. also joining us from washington, douglas holtz aiken, the former adviser to president george w. bush, the president of the american action forum. and the senior global economic
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analyst, "time" magazine assistant. you have a great new interview with janet yellen, the upcoming chair of the federal reserve. there she is. the $16 trillion woman. auste in, let me start with you, the unemployment rate fell from 7% to 6.7%, first time in seven years. it's below that 7% level. that's pretty low. the bad news is it fell largely because, what, about 300,000 people who have been looking for jobs just gave up and they left the job market, if you will, because they have no hope of finding a job. >> look, i think that's correct. it followed on the data last month, which was shockingly good, way above expectations, so everyone thought it was going to be a big number. they're looking or the surveys lost in the polar vortex, stuck in traffic on the bridge. i mean, what happened? nobody can quite figure that
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out. this may be somewhat revised away, but i think the continued problems of labor force participation, that's the weakest part of the job market, the long-term unemployed and people getting discouraged. i think we got to address that issue. you know, even as we start to turn a corner, we've got to address that issue. >> we certainly do. and doug, just to give it some perspective, they revised the job creation number from november. originally they said 203,000 jobs had been created in november, now 231,000. they say that's good. one month, as a lot of economists say, don't just jump to conclusions based on one month. december a bad month. so you got to look at the big picture. give us your analysis of the big picture? >> i had expectations of 200,000 jobs this month and i'm one of the people surprised by the low number.
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i agree with austan, this number will be revised and revised up, weather influenced the outcome. the jobs number might get revised but that unemployment number may remain. but the fraction of people working is lower than the start of the recession and this long-term departure from labor force is the single-most pressing issue we face and really hasn't been addressed in any way. >> it's an excellent point. i want your perspective on this. >> i would agree that it's really workforce participation more than one month of good or bad unemployment numbers that we should care about. and you know, it's not just something that's been going on for a few years. this workforce participation rate is as low as it has been since 1978, which is before women started coming into the workforce in large numbers. this is something that's been going on for some time now.
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a real trend. makes the u.s. look more like europe in terms of its workforce participation and that's a structural problem that we need to throw a lot of firepower at. >> let me bring brianna back into this conversation, brianna hold on for a moment. austan will make one additional point. >> the only point i want to make is the u.s. population is aging. so part of this is from retirements and we're likely to continue setting the record for participation every year going forward for the next 15 years because the people are retiring. >> people are retiring earlier than they normally would have retired or there are people who are retired and they live longer? >> well, there are a lot more people getting to age 65 now as a share of the population than there were in 1985. and so it is part of this is a normal thing. it was projected to be falling. it's just it has fallen more
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than it was projected to, but about half of what we've seen is just demographics. >> yeah, i think that's a fair point. doug, you agree with that, right? >> it's the baby boom. the baby boom is a big chunk of the population. they're reaching retirement age. that we do understand, but the rest is a big problem. and it's chronic underemployment, chronic departure from the labor force. it won't be dealt with like little patches like this emergency ue bill they're talking about in congress. it needs structural training and relocation. >> hold on, hold on. why do you say this little bill? 1.3 million americans have lost their -- have lost their government support, if you will. that's not a little thing for 1.3 million americans and the millions of family members who may be dependent on this. >> well, the population -- >> well said, wolf. >> it won't solve the problem for the whole population.
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certainly those families will be affected. but again, go back to the basic problem. the problem is unemployment insurance benefits are helped after the problem has occurred. the real issue is to make the economy grow more rapidly so there are opportunities and give people the skills to take advantage of them. we're not doing either of the latter two. >> the fact is -- >> hold on. rana, go ahead. >> we need to do both. yes, we need to grow the economy. in my "time" cover, i actually spoke to janet yellen about this and she believes as many do that a rising tide still lifts all boats. sure, if you've got 3% growth rather than 2, which is what everybody is hoping for this year, things will look better. but the long-term unemployed problem is something that goes beyond even being an economic problem. it's a real social problem. there's research to show when people have been out of work for over a year, for 18 months, families start to disintegrate. children have trouble in school. people's marriages can fall apart. this is a real cultural issue. we have to look at the broader
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implications on society. >> brianna, do white house officials believe that this new jobs report is going to push it over the top, get at least a three-month extension of the unemployment benefits and do they believe it will help their efforts to raise the nation's minimum wage? >> well, the thing here, wolf, is actually that this bad report is more helpful to doing that than if they were to get a good report. i've seen spoking with republicans who told me before the report came out, if it's bad, this may be something that puts a little pressure to do something. it does sort of make the case when you look at the numbers. you're looking at 4 of 10 of those who are unemployed are long-term unemployed. those are folks that have been without a job for more than six weeks and this is really their last lifeline. when you look at the average of people who have been unemployed, it is beyond that six months. so this is an experience for the unemployed that is really kind of consistent. so obviously the white house,
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congressional democrats see an opportunity here in what's a really tough political year. you have the midterm political elections ahead in november. so they're trying to certainly push this as well. the long-term unemployment benefits and this is also going to be a push a little later for the minimum wage as well, wolf. >> doug, go ahead and react to this. >> well, you know, the extension of emergency unemployment benefits is desirable but i don't think solves the fundamental problem and that's all there is to it. the minimum wage doesn't solve any problems either. it doesn't really address poverty and doesn't really help job creation. the difference between people who are poor and not poor is work. the poverty rate among those not working is three times higher. we need to get people into jobs and there's nothing about the minimum wage that does that. >> i have to jump in on this that because we're living in a time when the corporate share of the overall economic pie is as high as it has been in decades. meanwhile, the median male